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IAmA Missing Person, Disappearance Expert, under 40 run-away. AMAA

Jul 16th 2012 by goodbye-throwaw • 51 Questions • 940 Points

I was asked to do this in another thread So here I am.

I am under 40, have been running away from life and people for over 20 years. I live a very comfortable life, hold a job, in a relationship, have friends, but I will disappear again soon. I start over every few months to years, like a bad video game. This is a really bad hobby, likely due to mental issues, but I continue doing it. I do understand this is not normal behavior. To do this you become slightly criminal, immoral, and alone.

I started this in grade school due to moving schools, then high schools, then my first few jobs, then creditors, then family, now everyone. It is a blend between a chosen dissociative identity disorder and a really boring version of the Bourne Identity. A little paranoia never hurt either.

Key points to get started:

  1. This lifestyle helped me fix my credit, save money, travel the world, end up in unique situations, and become a true jack-of-all-trades.

  2. Police were called for my disappearance as recently as two years ago

  3. One family member knows an email address of mine, this is rarely used

  4. I am known by over a dozen names, yes, sometimes I screw them up

  5. I have met and helped others who live like me. People should witness the hilarity of two people, who don't want to be found. trying to get in contact with each other. Worst game of telephone tag ever.

I tried to think of what someone can provide as proof for something like this, I am clueless. I am aware of an ex on reddit who will jump all over this knowing it is me. Otherwise here are two photos I thought could help. First one being my safe of currency, passport, and physical notes. Like I said, this is a really simple version of the bourne identity. I keep the equivalent of $200-$500US in a few different currencies in a safe at all times. These are countries I have either been to or I will flee to. Not much, but enough to get started when I land for a day or two. My passport as you can see is quite abused, extra pages and all. Keeping some sort of physical journal is underrated, somethings you just need written down when you can't have electronics with you. Second photo is my unopened mail I just received. Little things like a cell phone or mail become a major pain to deal with. This picture is about two months of mail, not much these days. Pictures!

Any questions let me know, I am happy to help others or answer just about anything.

EDIT Thanks for all the questions, I'll answer as much as I can. No one brought this up yet, but 9/11 screwed up this way of life quite a bit. The before/after of trying to stay off the radar changed dramatically.

EDIT 2 Thanks for being kind but asking real questions. Yes, I know I have issues, quite a lot. But I am trying to be honest here for once. I know I don't come off as someone with a lot of guilt, sorry? This AMA may be more of a psych profile than anything. I am trying to answer as much as I can while working.

EDIT 3 Thanks for all the messages, I will respond soon but didn't expect this to hit the front page. I'll be back later when not as visible. This was a lot of fun but odd having all this attention.

EDIT 4 Updating now that this is no longer front page. Bare with me, I had no idea this many people had questions on hiding like this or why people would do it.

Q:

what kind of jobs you do and whats the usual salary ? are you over 30 ?

A:

Yes, over 30. I work in tech, salary in US/Canada is about 180k/yr for my main job. Side work nets me only about 15-20k/yr extra here. Awkward identity situation means no benefits. What may sound like a lot to you really goes towards taxes, insurance, savings, etc.

However, in Asia the situation is reversed. I may only earn 30k/yr at a main job, but then pull in another 50-80k/yr off the books doing odd jobs. Some of this is tax benefits.


Q:

So random question. When you apply for jobs, do you ever stress out that you may not be qualified for it? Have you ever sat at your new desk at a gig thinking "WTF am I doing now?"

But since the salary is amazing, you learn quickly, or do you bluff it for about a year?

You mention you are in programming, what languages do you stick to?

What are some sites or books you use at tutorials in which helped you?

A:

HAHA! This has to be the most honest question regarding work in this thread. Yes, I freak out all the damn time. Considering I lie my way into jobs, you have no idea how many times I have paid others. I mentioned odesk.com earlier, I may be getting paid 60/hr for a small gig. I'll go on odesk, hire someone at 7/hr, get them to code what I need while I sleep, wake up, fix the code, done. Yes, very unethical, but it works.+ They see my turnaround time, I get more work.

I think one guy caught on a while back, my comments in code were in engrish, I had to learn to really spend more time making it look like me.


Q:

Who is hiring you without a valid identity and SSN in the US? We do all sorts of background checking for employees especially IT, but you managed to waltz into a 180k/yr job in the US with a made up name and no history?

Who are you paying taxes to with a fake name? IRS requires SSN for a W-2 so they'll even take your taxes. Are you stealing SSNs and committing felony identity theft?

A:

I contract via one of my own companies or a friends. A few of us have an S-Corp. If you want to really look into this check out 'loan-out corporations'. It's a sketchy way of protecting not only assets, but identities.

If my 'friend' sends me to a job as 'Jimmy James, the man so nice they named him twice' for 120 hours over the next month, they really don't care who I am. The corp says they did the background check, I show up, do the work, they pay the corp. Only trick is to try and go by the same name or family of names in a city. If you do jobs all over NYC as Josh or Joe, this can work. If out at a bar with coworkers and someone calls you 'Pete!!' this can get ugly quick.


Q:

Ah, very clever, so the s-corp is in your real name then?

A:

Mine is, can't say for my 'friends' Like I said, I am a really boring version of all this. I could go full blown fake, but I figure I already dance on that line. I see it more as protecting my information and hiding than lying even though I know I lie all day long.


Q:

How the hell do you deal with taxes? I can't even imagine the conversation with an accountant.

How do you earn so much if your references are difficult to check and prove your experience?

Do you ever think about the family, friends and loved ones you hurt?

Do you ever go back?

Since you realize this is not normal and while interesting, destructive, have you ever considered seeking help for it?

Have you ever been in love? And left anyway?

A:

Taxes suck, not much because I like to be invisible, but trying to track down all the income and expenses.

I have been faking job references since 1996, I don't know any better. Now since we have a small network of people any time I need a reference I just ask one of my friends to do it. I give them the back-story in an email and they spoof it. I do the same for them.

I think about a lot of people in the past, even as recently as a year ago. I don't think about hurting them, but I do miss them. I only show up for a rare funeral. Last one was my father about six years ago. This is why I trust one person to have an email I check often.

I have considered seeking help for it, but don't know if I can be that honest. If I could talk to someone over skype it may be easier, but face to face honesty is really hard for me.

Yes, I have left love more than once. This is hard, and I know why most criminals get caught due to a lover.


Q:

well it seems you gain a nice amount of money, but you... well, basically you cant retire and keep collecting money even tho. you are doing nothing ? Then what do you plan on doing when you are older ?

A:

I don't know. If I knew what I wanted to do when I grow up I would knock this off already, start a new life as the real me, and be done with it.


Q:

If for some reason you end up on the East Coast, we should grab a drink. And you could tell me stories.

A:

Msg me details, I am always game.


Q:

Can I add you on facebook?

A:

I use zero social media. Most of the people looking for me from high school try to guess my email address. I know this because some of them get it right since one of them is my real name.


Q:

What makes you happy?

A:

If I could answer this I would probably stop running.


Q:

You must be a nightmare to play hide and seek with

A:

I did this once, I got up and left the house. We were all 28 or so, playing a drunk hide and seek game. My turn to hide, I ran a few blocks away, just got in a taxi and left. They didn't hear from me for a week. They were not amused.


Q:

Care to share what was going through your mind at that time?

A:

Not much that I can remember. Something along the lines of 'oh, I'll show them how this is done' poof!


Q:

This raises questions about a man that I'll just call "Doug" from a tech job I worked at a few years back. Makes me wonder if he was doing something similar to this.

A:

Hello.


Q:

How do you procure fake passports and ID's?
How do you get the money to do this?

A:

I posted this before but I travel under my own passport. I figure if shit really hits the fan, going that far fake is not going to help my case.

Although, I do have friends with two or three passports. Some countries, Cambodia, make them quite easy to obtain. Not to mention, these countries don't check a lot of paperwork. If you want a real, working passport that says you are Captain Losferwords, it may only run you 10k. However, good luck traveling on a Cambodian passport, get ready for 30 day limits on stays and lots of extra fees. I am aware of black market types that go full Bourne as I call it, and can give you real/fakes, but I see that as insane and expensive. Just go legit, but with a new identity and country.

Money - I work, a lot. Too much, people usually tell me.


Q:

What about an American passport?

A:

Only way I know of this is based on you not having a record / prints. Go somewhere else, start a life, get documentation, passport etc.. then immigrate to America. There you go, new real American identity, but this takes a few years.


Q:

Because of your numerous identities, do you have to remind yourself of your real name if you went a while not using it, or is that not even an issue at all?

A:

No, but I get my names in use at any time screwed up. My methods are so bad here is what happens:

Work knows me as Josh, we go to cheesecake factory, I give them my name for a table as John. Two minutes go by, they call Greg, I stand up. Ugh..


Q:

I've always told myself that I would want to go out randomly and just disappear, without telling anyone. It does scare me sometimes because its like an obsession I have, anyways thanks for your iama.

A:

You're welcome. What makes you think about doing it? What stops you?


Q:

Have you ever thought about using your skills as a nomad for good? Say, busting a drug ring and then getting the hell outta dodge, never to be seen again, or breaking up a dog fighting ring? Do you think you could pull it off? You could leave a calling card. THE SHADOW....

A:

Not yet.


Q:

You should watch the movie "The man from Earth" link.

A:

I'll download it, thanks!


Q:
  • is it really so hard to find you or did the abandoned ppl/involved authorities just not try hard enough?
  • incident in your life where you got closest to getting "cought"
  • describe your last 24 hours before you leave a place forever
  • have you ever considered settling down somewhere in your past?/is there something which you would consider staying for?
  • where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

Sry for so many questions at once but feel that the most important ones have not been asked yet. :) Thx for your AMA.

A:

Some I know have tried pretty hard, but I make myself a ghost. I leave a job and within days I know anyone who previously knew me for 3 years has no clue how to contact me. Best they have is an alias that at best can be traced to another alias. These are people I have shared birthdays with, gone to weddings, babysat their kids, helped move, and then I vanish.

Caught involves going back to my hometown, some exes there along with someone trying to serve me have been trying really hard. I have ducked out of back doors and hid in closets quite a few times.

Final 24 hours, I make amends. By this point I know where I am going and am aware of my path. Storage unit is locked down, tickets are in hand, laptop is wiped, new VPN is up, final items are sold on craigslist, and I toss the phone sim card onto the street or in the trash. This could be a Tuesday and then I don't show up at a job on a Wednesday. I usually take someone out to dinner I enjoyed being with, talk a bit. Sometimes spend it with a girl who was special. It's almost a ritual for me now.

I consider settling down at times, but I think some therapy and addressing issues needs to come first. I would stay if I meet the right person, but guessing that person has to be okay with being very private. Funny side story, I met up for lunch with another friend like this one day. He trusted me to meet his wife, I never knew he was married. She was complaining how she was late for lunch because at the car dealership she forgot the name the car was under. She knew it was Hernandez something, but in Phoenix this doesn't work so well.

Living on a boat somewhere.


Q:

If you met the right girl, would you try to convince her to adopt your lifestyle?

A:

I think I would meet in the middle.


Q:

I guess my question is, Do you have any children. And off the top of your head how many different places have you resided in more than One year?

A:

No kids, would not do this with a child.

More than a year, I would say five. I usually cut the cord around six months.


Q:

What are the necessary preparations?

A:

Oh damn, this is a talk separate of this whole topic. About 3-4 months of legwork and you can vanish. Lots of UPS store mail boxes, prepaid cell phones, and scrubbing internet history and credit records. Not to mention selling most of what you own.

Two 'okay' sources I can give to get you started are these:

J.J. Luna - How to Be Invisible

Frank M. Ahearn - How to Disappear

These can give you a basic understanding of how this works, depending how deep you want to go.


Q:

How many kids?

Have you suddenly/accidentally run in to someone from your past ?

Any regrets?

A:

No kids, I was smart.

Yes, I was at a grocery store about two years ago. Picking though some apples I heard someone calling my last name. I slowly set the basket down and started to walk away. They stopped me. She worked at a mail drop I used under my real name years ago, she was just saying hi. She moved too, funny.


Q:

How do I find you?

A:

Find the person drinking alone at a bar.


Q:

Do you not even care about the obvious emotional anguish you have brought to so many people, who now think you may have been killed, or kidnapped, or worse? Do you really have any close relationships, or just a bunch of people who think they are your friends?

A:

I do care, a bit. I know it is fucked up. Some are hurt more than others. I have a few close relationships, but our definitions of close may be quite off.


Q:

I just want to say that I wish you the best. I hope some day you find your true niche in life, even if what you're doing now is what that may already be. Are you happy?

A:

Thank you. No, I have not been happy in years.


Q:

Well, plenty of people who live "normal" on-the-grid lifestyles are completely unhappy as well, but they have crushing routine on top of that. At least your life is exciting, right?

I'm in the former boat - married, career, bills and rent and taxes and all, with a soul-crushing routine of work and sleep, but only mid-20's. Every single day I fight the urge to grab my emergency backpack and just walk away from everything and see what kind of life I can carve out on the road. To be honest, my wife is the only thing stopping me - not because I need or would miss her, but because I know it would crush her and ruin her life if I left, and I can't bring myself to do it. The fact is, I'm a solitary lonely person at heart, even when surrounded by family and/or friends, and all I want is to just fade away and wander until I die.

Well, anyway, I'm sure you have good days and bad days out there - here's hoping for more of the good.

A:

Thank you, not sure if it helps to hear that, but glad to see we all have our issues. Guessing on the surface you are pretty normal as well.


Q:

Have you eloped with the different women in each country as you go from one country to the next?

A:

I meet new women everywhere I go. Younger this was much easier, very easy in fact. As I get older most of these women now, over 26, do not play games. They will see through me very quick or start asking too many questions. If they can't see where you live after a few weeks they will leave.


Q:

Very interesting.

When you reappear, is it the same you, or do you like to try on a new personality/skin?

A:

Almost always new personality. It's more of an evolution than anything.


Q:

Do you make large changes to your personality? Like going from an extrovert to complete introvert etc? Or only subtle/slight changes

A:

Sometimes. I am normally quite introvert, big shock huh? But I have learned to turn on extrovert and talk my way around quite a few places. Sometimes I play music, sometimes my hobby is model trains, in other places I write. I try to pick a hobby and stick with it in certain areas. Usually after I know who I am working with and what hobbies will fit in.


Q:

Have any of your reincarnations been gay?

A:

I do have one story, but it was more bi curious and only to get girls.


Q:

Would you ever take on a sidekick? Can it be me?

A:

It is not as glamorous as it sounds, but if you have a passport sure, why not.


Q:

As also a runaway who has a life. I wish you well with each new life

A:

And you too, may our paths cross one day.


Q:

What are the firsts thing you do when you arrive in a new place?

A:

I pick up a cell phone to add to the collection of prepaids to draw from in the future. I open up a mail drop. I drive or take transit around. I want to learn the area, part of it is paranoia if I have to run. I look for a quite place to stay, rent a room. Find the basics, store, food, hospital, etc. Try to figure out the basics of the immediate area. Learn some phrases if I do not know the language.

And finally, I look for work if I came here without work in the first place.


Q:

Learn some phrases if I do not know the language.

So sometimes you go places that are that foreign to you? I find that surprising for some reason.

A:

Sure, I am no expert. The first time in France I knew little French. Same with any country, I try not to remain too comfortable, always trying something new.


Q:

What's the story with your parents and other family members? How did you end up leaving them behind, and how did they react?

A:

I gave them small stories at first. Told them I had a 3 month job in Dallas, but I was really in Tampa. Then took longer and longer jobs. Now they just think I am 'busy'.


Q:
  • How many different countries have you lived in?
  • Do you ever miss any of the people/places you leave behind?
A:

Countries is hard to count. Maybe 15?

Yes, I do miss quite a few people. This is the hard part. I meet a lot of good contacts but can't keep them, or I keep them attached to a bogus email and name. There are a lot of cool people out there, I wish I could keep in contact with them all.


Q:

Yeah I see some Macau money I think.

Why travel so many countries? I'm sure there's some third world nation(s) where its easy to hide anonymously for years. Or is it just the thrill of travel.

A:

Yes, part of it is the love of travel. You have to enjoy it, I am not pure sociopath.

Hiding out in busy cities like Hong Kong or real third world like Laos work wonders to starting over and finding work. I always feel it is the in between that may get you.


Q:

Where was your favorite place to live?

Where was the best place to meet girls?

Do you drink a lot?

Are you sometimes in proper relationships, and if so, is it weird for you that you know that it will end, but she doesn't?

A:

Tokyo or Istanbul

Odessa Ukraine or Southeast Asia

Yes, drink too much

Yes, awkward as hell. Only time I feel really bad.


Q:

I don't understand why you're changing identities if you're not doing anything illegal. You could just as easily live in a dozen different countries and change jobs every few months with the same identity. You can change phone numbers and addresses and not give them out if you don't want people from your past to contact you. What exactly can you do with a new identity that you can't do with your old one if you're not avoiding creditors and/or the law? Do you create a new persona along with a new name? You sound more like a very boring version of Frank Abagnale Jr than Jason Bourne.

A:

This is more personality issues, super privacy concerns, and the ability to break laws. I don't use the ability often, but often enough to want it available.


Q:

What's the worst law you've broken? Are we talking like big jail time? Small jail time? Big fines? Small fines?

A:

Unarmed bank robbery.


Q:

A strange hobby, for sure. Is there some kind of thrill/buzz that comes with starting over, or why else do you do it?

Do you think the chance to live an interesting life makes it worth it?

Have you considered writing a book about your life?

A:

Yes, I think at this point it is part mental issues and part thrill. I wish I could answer why, I just like my privacy so I go to great lengths to protect it. These days I think it is more privacy focused than anything.

Yes, the interesting life would not be able to be so interesting if I was myself. Being able to reinvent myself works wonders.

I have thought about writing a book more like the two I have listed in the AMA, more of the how. I could tie it in with what I do and the stories I have. Maybe one day, if I don't have kids someone needs to see these photos and stories.


Q:

Would you be able to come back to a lot of the people you left behind?

What family did you leave behind? Mother? Knowing that mother isn't sure if I'm alive or dead would be hard.

A:

No, I don't think I could.

Not hard to guess which one has my email address isn't it?


Q:

When you enter into relationships with women, do you make up a childhood/life for each new indentity, or do you try and tell them the truth about that aspect of your life?

Where do you draw the line when it comes to the lies?

A:

I give them a mostly true background, different city of course. I find you have to give some real details. Sometimes I have total fun with it if I know it will be short term.

I don't have a line, that was lost a long time ago. My old friends are the closest, no one recently.


Q:

how do you start a new identity, i.e. one that you can have a job, earn money, pay rent, get passports etc. with? or is it all cash and can you use your original passport? do you change you appearance or just relocate or both? isn't it obvious something doesn't add up to your friends / partner / boss / colleagues? do you see a therapist? do you flee to escape problems or is there another reason? do you find it haunting or liberating? which / how many countries have you started new lives in? what kind of jobs (best paying) do you do?

A:

Okay, this is a few topics, let me try to break them up a bit.

  1. Usable identities. This is where it becomes slightly criminal. You either make them up or basically steal them. Obviously made up is better 99% of the time. I do travel on my own passport, nearly every month. I figure if big brother really wants me, I won't run. I'm estranged, not a serial killer. Making up names, addresses, etc. is very easy to do. Problem is keeping track who I am to whom. I keep a text file to organize things. Stealing, when I need one for a valid ssn but don't want to pop up on the radar, I will borrow a good piece of info I have acquired. Usually ssn, bdate, and name are all that is needed. Why an 80 year old from Tampa is renting a room in Vancouver.. no idea, but doubtful it will come back to anyone. I do change appearance a bit, but not dramatic. Dyed hair, either facial hair or not, weight gain or loss. I keep it very simple, but enough to not be recognized by most people in my past.

  2. Yes, very obvious to some people I know/meet. Others just call my habits strange and ignore me, even better. Part of it is paranoia, I think more people know my history than probably do.

  3. No therapy, yes I could really use it. I am very self aware now of many issues I wasn't in the past. I can cope much better, but still quite broken.

  4. I started to flee to escape problems, now I do it out of habit. I like to move often, at least every 2-3 years, and I find it easier to start over. Clean slates seem easier to me? This is quite liberating, but a real pain in the ass.

  5. Countries lived in may be too many to list, I have held residence and jobs on four continents. Using any number of names and personalities. Most of my time is Asia, Europe, and North America.

  6. Work. I work mainly in tech, think programming and engineering. It pays well in both developed and undeveloped countries. Other skills help though. I find having a blend of white color and blue color skill-sets, along with a willingness to do anything, get you quite far.


Q:

thanks for your complete answers.

you are the most well-spoken vagabond i've ever had the pleasure to communicate with.

interestingly i'm in the programming business myself. how do you find work? do you typically work at an office 9-5 or have a more loose association with your employers (i.e. freelance, work just from your laptop, etc.)?

A:

I find tech work in a lot of ways, Dice, craigslist, odesk, word of mouth, etc. I find it easier to find work in an office 9-5, with some travel. They are able to trust you more when in person, even though you are lying. It also helps with social skills and meeting other people who may lead to another job or side work. The side work is where I try to focus as well. Once they trust me, I start the process of running away, but still doing some work for a place remote. This gets really complicated at times. But to answer the question, I look for work the same way everyone else does. I do recommend learning an obscure skill-set. I only find work so easily because I focus on small areas no one else does. Search job sites, try to pick out words or tech you have not seen before. Study it, add it to a resume.


Q:

In regards to your relations with friends and what not... Have you ever kept in contact with anyone over these 20 years?? Is anyone you know aware that you do this?

A:

Yes. I have what I would count as 3-4 people from when I was 20-25 I keep in contact with. They know I travel a lot for work, not really what I do. I think one of them knows the mental issues.

I also have met a few who are like me, we stay in touch best we can. Funny how we trust each other, at least a little bit anyway.


Q:

Based upon the breadth of your experience, what is the most expat friendly country?

A:

Turkey or Japan come to mind. However, these are an odd level of fake nice. Almost like they have to be nice to you. Japan does get weird at times with the 'no whites' signs on bars.


Q:

Has anyone sic'd a competent private investigator on you? What would you do if you fell in love with someone you met online but they were as secretive as you and would never let you get close?

A:

I asked a friend at a courthouse to run a skiptrace on me, lots of deadends. This is the best I know, I would love to see if someone deadset on finding me could.


Q:

What would you do if you got a girlfriend pregnant and she had the baby?

A:

This sounds like a bad idea.


Q:

Is your greatest fear getting caught OR finding friends/family that you want to settle down with?

A:

Good questions, guessing both. I run from the past, with not a lot of reason to, yet don't want to stop.